Cesarean sections save lives.
They are also overused in some hospitals where mothers and doctors want babies to appear on schedule without pain or distress.
Recent research however shows that by detouring through the belly, baby is robbed of a rich bouquet of its mother’s microbes in the birth canal. Newborns delivered vaginally present with communities dominated by vaginal flora, such as Lactobacillus species. On the other hand, newborns delivered by Cesarean section have microbiota dominant in skin flora, such as Staphylococcus species.
Changes in early life microbiota are being linked to later metabolic disturbances including obesity, diabetes and neurological problems.
Yet pointing to C-section as a prime culprit may be simplistic. Other factors come into play, say researchers who presented new discoveries at the 2016 Harvard Probiotic Symposium in October.
Kjersti Aargaard MD, PhD at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas reported that microbes begin seeding in the placenta, the fetal cocoon which was thought to be sterile.
There are observable, measurable, cultivatable bacteria present, said Aargaard. Not as much as the gut, she added, but “as far as bacterial load is concerned, somewhere between a hot tub and a New York City subway.’
Other notable findings:
- The first meconium is unique from other baby sites
- At 6 weeks, site specificity starts
- A high-fat maternal diet changes the microbiome of the neonate
- Her takeaway:
- Breast-feed exclusively
- Restrict fat
Dr. Joseph Neu, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Florida at Gainesville also addressed the C-section question.
Evolving thought is that C-section involvement in microbial changes is complicated. Neu cited a few reasons linked to C-sections:
- Microbes could be different because of the emergency which requires the C-section
- Maternal separation
- Breast feeding starts later
- Stress and hormone responses due to the surgery
- Socioeconomic factors
Thus, better understanding of these early life interactions is vital in order to give baby optimum microbes to insure a healthier future.
Video above: Kjersti Aargaard, MD, PhD was asked what choices pregnant women should make regarding synbiotics: